Design + Tradition…
To design contemporary objects with traditional textile techniques is to negotiate between a desire to create something new and relatively unfettered and an understanding as well as respect for the thought processes and techniques that have guided the making of traditional textiles for generations. To appreciate the aesthetics of the textiles in depth it is important to understand why they are so time and labor intensive to make and what is achieved through these processes; for example, that a particular shade of indigo can only be attained through the best indigo, grown in certain conditions, and used for dye at a particular time of year when the climatic and weather-based conditions happen to be optimal for dyeing. Like wine or other geographically specific products, slight changes and alterations in atmosphere and environment bring visual nuance and a layered materiality to these textiles. This understanding guided decisions about how the textiles would be used. What, in other words, constitutes a lasting and valued product that makes the investment in such labor intensive production practices worthwhile?
With The Dali Project the design has been kept relatively simple as a means of both emphasizing the textiles themselves and as a way to bring a wider range of women into the project. This has also allowed the group to put greater focus on systematic issues such as repetition and quality control. Starting this way was not the only path forward, because encouraging individual artistic expression is equally as important and viable for design, but keeping the focus narrow allowed a few simple products to the become the shared basis of understanding for building an entrepreneurial model for unifying the group of women through the process of making things collaboratively.
As the project moves forward—the initial core group has slowly expanded to include and train additional women from the village— with the aim of expanding still further in the future. Leaders have emerged who possess the energy and enthusiasm to organize and set up systems for the production and sale of the work. A recognized cooperative with clearly established governance principles and democratic decision-making processes is being formed in stages. The women have gone from viewing their work individually to valuing the success and output of the group as a whole. Nonetheless, the work of building the cooperative is still in its early stages and has a way to go until it is fully self-sustaining. Each step of growth in the project has been the result of trying something new and learning through the experience of the attempt. In this way, the understanding of all the stakeholders engaged in the collaboration has evolved together.